The Incubus


 At turns too classy and too sleazy for it’s own good, 1981’s THE INCUBUS flirts with being a distinguished marriage between the occult thrillers of the seventies and the slash-fests of its day but ends up falling a hair short on both accounts. Director JOHN HOUGH (THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE) has a superior eye and many scenes have a rustic gothic vibe perfect for the supernatural detective story. He’s not done any favors by the repetitive script based on a RAY RUSSEL novel of the same name which spends much of its time discussing the qualities and quantities of seminal fluid found in various victim’s bodies. Celebrated rogue director and ROSEMARY’S BABY alum JOHN CASSAVETES is his usual mesmerizing self as Dr. Sam Cordell who’s bound and determined to make sense out of the quiet town of Galen’s string of unexplained rape murders. His uncomfortably close daughter is portrayed by CLASS OF 1984 pixie chick ERIN NOBLE who is well up to the task of holding her own with the veteran actor’s quirky naturalism. Out of place is the too glamorous KERRIE KEANE in an archaic and hammy nosey reporter role (her otherness may be explained by the film’s ending, but by then it’s too late). When it’s working on all cylinders THE INCUBUS can be compared to the underrated EXORCIST 3, with its aging protagonist, vague dream inserts and relentlessly grim, uncanny tone, but its inconsistencies are hard to ignore. Information is repeated needlessly and some sections just seem randomly put together or completely out of order. Most frustrating is the ending, which is an admittedly surprising twist that deserves a much more aggressive presentation. Actually I’m not sure there’s anything wrong here that an inspired editor could not fix, most horror fans have certainly done worse and there is definite talent on display, but ultimately the film’s strong suites only serve to highlight its weaker ones, leaving the viewer lamenting the classic film that might have been.
indelible scenes 

  • A scenic gorge in Elora, Ontario Canada makes a memorable impression as a location for the first demonic attacks
  • The Galen witchcraft library/museum is a suitably creepy spot 
  • The slaughter of a father and his two daughters (one is showering, one is wheelchair bound) may feel tacked on, but it certainly helps fill the horror quotient
  • Heavy metal god BRUCE DICKINSON has fun with fog and laser lights during a pre-bathroom stall rape musical interlude but the results are more FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD than IRON MAIDEN
  • Ending is spoiled by too short visit with title monster



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